The Bavarian town of Regensburg was a library travel destination during the European Enlightenment. With at least 26 collections, the number and variety of its private, governmental, school, and religious libraries rivaled that of much larger cities and figured in the bibliographic travel accounts of Johann Keyssler, Christoph Nicolai, Carl Oelrichs, Filippo Argellati, Georg Zapf, Friedrich Hirsching, Adalbert Blumenschein, and many others. The first-hand descriptions of these repositories are unique primary sources for the study of library history. Having been accessible to researchers largely in published forms, many were designed to serve as bibliographic aids for informing scholars about the locations of specialized subject collections and some individual works. The journals, letters, guidebooks, and texts also reflected the evolving scholarly and scientific nature of their cultural period. Overall, this case study of Regensburg’s libraries illustrates the particular value of contemporary travel literature.
The Enlightenment was a revolutionary period for science and travel. For a portion of European intellectual and cultural circles, travel included visits to political, artistic, and musical centers to expand one’s world view and taste. To become a worldly participant in eighteenth-century culture one had to do a “Grand Tour” – if not the wonders of the New World or Egypt, then at least European countries other than one’s own. Destinations included artistic and architectural sites, locations known for their physical beauty, and intellectual centers, the latter normally being cities or universities. Of these travelers, one small subset considered libraries to be their passionate focus; and several members of this bibliographically-motivated subset were disproportionately attracted by one small Bavarian town: Regensburg, known for its churches, a prominent monastery, and the princely court of Thurn und Taxis. It did not have a university at the time, but the Bavarian town of Regensburg, a former Roman stronghold located at the northernmost bend in the Danube, was an important seat of government for several centuries and attracted numerous travelers because of its libraries. By examining the travel reports of these library travelers, it is possible to construct a view of Regensburg as a center of learning in the last half of the eighteenth century. Their most obvious purpose was to describe, sometimes in rather superficial terms, the state of the libraries of their times so that others would know the lay of the bibliographical land. They appreciated the aesthetics to be sure, and did not lack enthusiasm, but their descriptions were typically prosaically descriptive.
The libraries of central Europe during the latter half of the seventeenth century have been covered relatively recently by several researchers. Not only have their architectural and decorative features been analyzed (Garberson, 1998), including some detailed studies of individual libraries like that of the Hofbibliothek in Munich (Garrett, 1999), but the impressions they made on travelers of that period have been documented (Becker, 1980; Walker, 1992). Most travel accounts of the period included descriptions of scientific and cultural institutions of all kinds, libraries being only one among them. In the 1720s Christian Fischer relayed in journal format a variety of what we would call scientific and social-scientific reports about populations, institutions, museums, and mechanical inventions (Fischer, 1727; Predeek, 1928). Likewise, Johann Keyssler, who in the 1730s spent most of his travel time in German-speaking regions, introduced his readers to a wide variety of foreign practices, accomplishments, and scientific advances in two volumes, complete with engravings (Keyssler, 1740). Somewhat later in the century, and on even a larger scale, Friedrich Nicolai assembled twelve volumes of data gathered in German-speaking areas (Nicolai, 1783-1796). He sought to investigate economic histories of cities and regions, describe social customs, folk costumes, and provided at least one quite lengthy dictionary of a particular dialect. A sample of two additional titles indicates the missions of these travelers: “Diary of a Scholarly Journey in 1750, through a Part of Upper and Lower Saxony,” in the
Considering the long history of scholarly bibliography, it should not be surprising that some contemporary information professionals, including Michael Denis (1777-1778; 1782; 1795-1796) and Burkhardt Struve (1704), introduced readers to important libraries and their contents. Most travel accounts of the day likewise described library contents for potential future researchers; however, a library traveler of a very specious kind (from the perspective of monastic librarians, at least) was Johann Aretin, whose task as Court Librarian in 1803 was to travel throughout Bavaria in order to assemble a list of important manuscripts and early printed books. The purpose of this “literary business trip” by Aretin, the “
The very few travelers who wrote large-scale works primarily about libraries, specifically Blume’s four published volumes (1824-1827), Blumenschein’s four manuscript volumes (), and Hirsching’s four published volumes (1786-1791), described the physical characteristics of the libraries, their histories, practices, and collections. Such contributions to library scholarship are infrequently discussed in modern literature. Besides some general library historical accounts found in handbooks or encyclopedias of library history, such as the
Of the researchers mentioned above, Blumenschein and Hirsching contributed a disproportionate amount of text about the libraries of Regensburg.
Adalbert Blumenschein was a priest, librarian, and administrator at a small pilgrimage church on the Danube, Maria-Taferl, who spent the greater part of his retirement years assembling a
For the section on Bavarian libraries alone, Blumenschein described 103 libraries. Sixty-six entries were informed by personal visits, with supplementary data from other, mainly printed sources. Thirty-seven additional entries were based entirely on secondary sources (Blumenschein, 1780, III, p. 222-235).
Whereas Blumenschein visited hundreds of libraries and described over two thousand more, his entries were not on the whole as detailed as those by Friedrich Hirsching a few years later. Hirsching visited about 240 libraries in 61 cities. This admirable feat is reflected in the size of his
Friedrich Karl Gottlob Hirsching (1762-1800) was a professor at the University in Erlangen from 1792 until his premature death eight years later. His specialties were botany, agriculture, and geography, where he was highly respected. However, it was through several large-scale reference works initiated by him, such as the biographical
...die gelehrten Hülfsmittel dieser oder jener Universität, Stadt oder auch einzelnen Privatmannes anzuzeigen, besonders die vorzüglichsten Fächer, die Gröse etc. und kurz eine Art von Bibliotheken-Statistik zu liefern (Hirsching, I *3) [to publicize the scholarly material of this or that university or city, or also of private individuals, especially for the most prominent subjects, sizes, etc., in short to provide a kind of library statistic (Note: translations by author).]
Already by the age of twenty-four, when the first volume of the work was published, he had experienced enough difficulty himself in the use of libraries in foreign cities that he wanted to provide information regarding the existence of libraries and special collections, printed or other catalogs, and about what was of crucial, if merely practical, importance for traveling scholars, namely the libraries’ hours of operations (Hirsching, I, 3r-3v). Hirsching attempted to present detailed accounts of each library. Besides relating some of the history of a library, he outlined its holdings in broad categories, described its physical facilities, supplied the name of its librarian or other managing official, and in many cases listed what he considered to be the most important books and manuscripts. In isolated cases, he included transcriptions of classification systems.
As his title suggests, Hirsching described libraries in German-speaking areas. He did not include many cities in the northern regions but focused on areas defined by Blumenschein as Bavaria, Franconia, Swabia, Upper and Lower Rheinland, and Upper and Lower Saxony, with only a few in Switzerland, (western) Austria, Bohemia, and Prussia. By recording such detailed information for so many collections, Hirsching’s work has come to be respected as one of the major documents of eighteenth-century German library scholarship.
The Bavarian town of Regensburg can serve to illustrate the richness of the travel literature about libraries in the late eighteenth century (for a general introduction to its history during this period, see Hable, 1970). Probably because of its advantageous location at the uppermost navigable position of the Danube, Regensburg and its environs have been inhabited since before Roman times. The Romans developed the settlement as a trade and military center; portions of the walls of the Roman fort are still standing and several excavations of Roman buildings have been and are currently underway. The growing community became a political center that surpassed any in its area, including Munich, throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it had lost much of its economic and political importance, but retained a rich cultural life, including Italian opera, German comedies, and French theater, as well as a prominent population of religious orders and a relatively high number of churches per capita. Regensburg probably supported more libraries per capita than most other towns its size. Despite the lack of a university – the nearest were at Erlangen and Ingolstadt – it was a town of much scholarly activity. The population by 1802 was only 22,000, having suffered the loss of 7,857 lives due to the plague in the early part of the eighteenth century, but it and its satellite settlements, Stadtamhof, Prül, and Prüfening, were supplied with at least 26 libraries of various types.
The town appeared on the itineraries of many traveling scholars and of at least nine travelers who described libraries in the eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries. Several remarked on the beauty of the city and most praised its rich library holdings. The list in Table 2 is an index of references to works written between 1727 and 1803 that discuss the libraries of Regensburg, Stadtamhof, Prül, and Prüfening.
Thus for one small town there exist at least 55 references by contemporary observers. Supplemented by local and regional archival materials, many of which are described in Hable (1970, p. 201-205), it is possible to gain a much more thorough understanding of this town’s library history from before 1700 to 1800 and beyond than would be possible with archival records alone.
The kinds of coverage in the reports about Regensburg libraries vary greatly. Except for the works of Blumenschein and Hirsching, visitors tended to write rather brief passages about the libraries or to provide short lists of important materials. The shortest are references to collections by name only or to those that were merely thought to have existed. After concluding his discussion of the monastery and church libraries, for example, Hirsching remarked that he did not know if certain monasteries had libraries (Hirsching, III, p. 721):
Ob die zwey noch übrigen Klöster, die Minoriten und Capuziner, Bibliotheken aufzuweisen haben, ist mir unbekannt; eben so von den dasigen Exjesuiten, welche daselbst noch die Schule und den Unterricht der Jugend besorgen. [Whether the two remaining monasteries, the Minorites and Capuchins, have libraries, I do not know; likewise for the former Jesuits here, who are still responsible for the school and instruction of youths.]
As it happened, all three did indeed have libraries, as we learn from Blumenschein. The Minorites had a respectable collection of about 9,000 books (no manuscripts, however) in a beautifully decorated, if rather small room (Blumenschein, II p. 232-233). The Capuchins had a modest library in a small room that contained about 2,000 volumes, among which containing two early bibles printed by Koburger in Nuremberg in 1479 and 1512 (Blumenschein, II, p. 232a). The Jesuit school library had about 8,000 books on a variety of subjects (Blumenschein, II, p. 233-234).
Not all libraries were beautiful to look at or easy to gain access to. Some were in remarkably bad condition, and Hirsching and Blumenschein were not afraid to give details. The library of the Augustinian Hermits must have been remarkably disturbing; both library travelers were horrified at its condition and its future prospects. Hirsching partly excused the condition of the collection and its rooms by explaining that these monks were of a truly poor order, without a permanent home, and that it was surprising that they had as many valuable early printed books as they did (Hirsching, III, p. 312-313). Having had great difficulty in locating anyone who could find the very seldom-used keys to the library – which is telling evidence itself about how frequently the library was used – Blumenschein’s efforts at the same monastery were rewarded by exposure to what he declared to be the worst library conditions he had ever seen. The library of the Augustine monastery was not only extremely unkempt, but also housed directly above the brothers’ brewery (Blumenschein, II, p. 231-232).
The various travel accounts and descriptions can be compared across several areas of library inquiry in the interest of corroboration, provided they are sufficiently close in time to prevent large-scale changes from having affected the comparisons. Sections that might be compared could include the lists of important books and manuscripts, when the titles are verifiable. The estimates of numbers of volumes in the collections could also be compared. Using the libraries of Regensburg as a sample of the works of Hirsching and Blumenschein once again, it is possible to see how the estimates of the library sizes correspond:
The most obvious problems with making such comparisons are those of determining what kinds of material were counted (manuscripts, printed books, or other material), what units of measurement were employed (work or volume), and what the sources of the estimates were (the author, librarians, or owners). The private libraries of Dietrich and Will each seemed to have been very large, but they consisted primarily of “
Der P: Bibliothekar schlug zwar den ganzen Vorrath auf 11000: Bände an; allein mir will diese Zahl in der That gar zu übertrieben scheinen. [The (Father) librarian estimated the whole inventory at 11,000 volumes; to me, however, this number seems in fact much too exaggerated.]
Hirsching also was aware of some of the problems involved in book counting. In his lengthy description of the library of St. Emmeram, he estimated the number of manuscripts to be about 900 but pointed out that since single works were often bound together, the actual number may have been higher than 1,500 (Hirsching, II, p. 572). The discrepancies in number between the two estimates for the libraries of Count Palm and the Benedictine monastery of St. Jakob might be easier to reconcile if either Hirsching or Blumenschein were consistently generous or conservative. Hirsching seems to have been the closer reckoning for Palm’s library, which was also estimated at about 20,000 by another traveler of the period, Klement Alois Baader (Baader, 1795-1797; 1801, II, p. 29). Both Blumenschein and Hirsching commented on the inaccessibility of this collection (Palm was apparently seldom in town, neglected the collection, and closely restricted the use of it) and Blumenschein was amused that the librarian would not allow him to handle any books (Blumenschein, II, p. 234). Perhaps it was partly because of the limited access to the collection that their estimates differed by so much.
While library travel accounts were concerned primarily with library holdings, both Blumenschein and Hirsching supplied administrative details, including opening hours and general level of accessibility to traveling scholars. In the very short entry for the library of Prince Thurn und Taxis, Blumenschein recorded that it had been reported to him that the library consisted primarily of modern works, but that by 1781 they had not yet been organized (Blumenshein, II, p. 232a). While it was true that the collection housed primarily relatively recent literature at that time, librarians had already prepared bound catalogs in 1771 and 1780, which Blumenschein could have seen had he visited this library (Probst, 1963, p. 127-228; Fabian, 2003). His source of information, however, could well have been aware of some recent acquisitions of smaller collections that would not have been reflected in the general bound catalog of that time. This was just a few years before the library overhaul by its new librarians, Alexander Freiherr von Westerholt and Albrecht Christoph Kayser, the latter now known for his seminal work on descriptive cataloging (Kayser, 1790).
Less than six years later, Hirsching visited the Thurn und Taxis collection and produced what is today regarded as the only detailed description of that library in the eighteenth century. Hirsching cited and sometimes briefly described books and journals on more than 30 of the entry’s 46 pages. There is no indication of Westerholt’s or Kayser’s opinions of this visitor, but Hirsching was impressed by the institution’s methods of bibliographic organization and allotted 12 valuable pages for the collection’s classification system. Kayser’s 8-volume subject catalog, completed two years before Hirsching’s work was published, his 7-volume alphabetical catalog, and a shelflist have been preserved and are kept among several other historical catalogs in the current Thurn und Taxis collection. It is unusual for library travelers to report about library classification systems in such detail (Hirsching, III, p. 704-716). At the broadest level, the classes are:
I. and II. The “observable” vs “speculative” sciences
I. Mathematics (subdivided into pure and applied)
II. The Four Faculties (Theology, Philosophie, Law, and Medicine, designated by letters: G (for “Gottesgelhrsamkeit”), Ph., R (for “Rechtsgelehrsamkeit”), and Me (for Medizin)
III. History (Ge for “Geschichte”)
IV. Politics (St for “Staatswissenschaften”)
V. Philology and Belles Lettres (S.W. for “Schöne Wissenschaften”)
VI. Arts and Trades (K.H. for “Künste und Handwerker”)
VII. Miscellaneous (Mi)
The last section is perhaps one of the more interesting from a classification standpoint because the nature of its contents tell us what the librarians had trouble categorizing:
VII. Miscellaneous (Mi)
Encyclopedias Works that end with –ana (In book titles or even for entire collections, this suffix has been applied to proper names, activities, or geographic areas and consisted of anecdotes, miscellaneous essays, or more serious materials, i.e. “Leopoldiana,” “Shakespeariana.”) Specifically named miscellanies Travel accounts Freemasonry, secret societiesSciences of the future or so-called secret knowledge divination a. astrology b. divination from aromas c. divination from fire (pyromancy) d. divination from water (hydromancy) e. divination from earth (geomancy)f. divination from names (onomancy) g. divination from dreams (oneiromncy) h. divination from hands (chiromancy or palmistry)i. divination from faces (physiogomics) j. Rosicrucianismk. Magic and divination from the dead (necromancy) And lastly, all those works, which cannot be classified, and for which Virgil’s verse is fitting: Obstupuit varia confusus imagine rerum (Aeneid XII 665, “Stunned and confused by various things” – the equivalent of “Miscellaneous.”)
It is evident that Hirsching adhered to an even more practical facet of his mission by providing his readers with a transcription of the “library laws” (
The days and hours in which the library is open to local residents is at all times posted on the main doors of the Princely Library. Travelers whose stay will not last until the next visiting day may however report this fact and may have access at other times, as long as there are no circumstances that prevent this. Visitors, who, under the permission of the emminent Benefactor, wish to use the library, will take great care in the use of the catalogs and in reading as well as in copying from their chosen works, for the sake of order. No one may remove books from their places, at least not without having the Librarian or the Librarian’s assistant standing by. Also,It is not permitted for users to copy with ink at places other than the general work desk. In addition, all are requested that the necessary care be taken when copying, so that the book from which one is copying will not be marked; those in whose hands such a book is ruined are responsible for the replacement of the entire work. Because it is Not in the Librarian’s power to permit anyone to take books home, it is requested that one not ask him to do so, and to spare a negative answer. Finally, All are free to spend the entire specified opening time in the library; thus, after the hours have elapsed, it cannot be regarded as impolite for the Librarian to remind visitors of closing time.
Eighteenth-century library descriptions are unique primary sources for the study of library history. Having been accessible to researchers in published forms (with the exception of the Blumenschein work), many were designed to serve as instrumental cogs in a wide, decentralized, information retrieval system that would inform scholars about the locations of specialized subject collections and some individual works. The journals, letters, guidebooks, and texts also reflected the evolving scholarly and scientific nature of their cultural period. The case of Regensburg’s libraries illustrates the particular value of contemporary travel literature. While the town’s libraries may not have been as well documented as those of some larger cities, it nevertheless was of sufficient geopolitical importance to have been a regional capital and attracted a large number of religious communities and learned individuals. By the late 1800s, it had a scholarly gravitational mass that rivaled many university towns and appealed to just the right combination of nobility (a generous Prince Thurn und Taxis) and professionalism (in the career of Kayser) to play a role in the early history of modern librarianship.